The Marvel Life

The Marvel Life: Minor Alps

Musicians Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws open up about their collaboration, plus Spider-Man and the Hulk!

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By Blake Garris 

We recently sat down with solo artist Juliana Hatfield and front man of Nada Surf Matthew Caws to talk about their new musical collaboration, Minor Alps, how Juliana’s art resembles the Hulk and much more!

Marvel.com: To begin, you guys have known each other; since 1990, I believe?

Juliana Hatfield: I don’t think we’ve known each other that long.

Juliana Hatfield and Matthew Caws

Matthew Caws: I think that was around the time I first saw Juliana on stage. I think we’ve known each other through each other’s records for that long, maybe. In my case, because Juliana was putting out records before I was, but we’ve known each other in person, by acquaintance, for at least 10 years, maybe a little longer. We don’t know if we first met in Boston or in Austin; one of the two. But eventually enough so that we were occasional friends and Juliana asked me to sing on her record and that was a really wonderful experience and I asked her to sing on a Nada Surf record and also really enjoyed it.

Marvel.com: What made this time the right time to put out this record?

Matthew Caws: Just on a practical level that it was a good time for them to take a break so that I’d be really free to devote some full on, “let’s make a band” kind of attention to it, which we’ve been doing and it’s really been a full time thing for a while.

Juliana Hatfield: And I’ve been feeling really grateful that I was able to use Matthew’s time off. I feel lucky that he was able to take that much time off his main band to do this. That’s great.

Marvel.com: You’re both extremely established artists. How have the fans of your other work taken to this new music?

Juliana Hatfield: I think Nada Surf fans have taken it really hard. [Laughs] I’m just kidding.

Matthew Caws: They’re really into it.

Juliana Hatfield: I think so. I know there are some fans of mine who had never heard of Nada Surf and so they went and listened and they loved it. So maybe there are a couple of Nada Surf fans who never heard me and maybe they are starting to appreciate some of my stuff.

Spider-Man

Matthew Caws: Yeah, we’re sort of hoping, and I think it’s true by extension. I feel such a common sensibility in Juliana’s way and musical mind, melodies and approach to lyrics that I’m positive that people who are Nada Surf fans will find that her stuff resonates with them. It makes sense because we each have so much in common with our audiences, obviously, and that we find so much in common with each other it just makes sense that there’d be some crossover appreciation. Which is great, but it’s not why we did it. It wasn’t like, “Let’s get our fans together.” It’s purely because it feels right to us personally.

Marvel.com: How did you decide on making this kind of sound initially?

Juliana Hatfield: I don’t think it was really a conscious decision. First, we just made sure that we had solid songs and then I don’t remember there being any big conceptual idea. It was more like, let’s take some songs, let’s get some studio time, make some demos, and then we just started to give each song what each song needed. There was a decision at some point to not really bring in any other musicians but to do everything we could do ourselves and then use a couple of drummers. And then we just started adding stuff on top of beats and with drums and things.

Marvel.com: What’s the future hold for Nada Surf, your solo work, and Minor Alps?

Matthew Caws: Well, Nada Surf is going to kick off again some point after Christmas. We’re going to start kicking ideas around and start making a record as soon as we can. Solo stuff, mine, I don’t have any. This is my only other thing.

Juliana Hatfield: What’s really strange for me is that I realized I have absolutely nothing planned for after tour. I guess I’m just going to rest for a little while and then start writing again. I’ve been painting and writing and that’s all I have planned.

Marvel.com: You’re in Spider-Man’s hometown, New York, playing a show tonight. What do you think about when you think of Spider-Man?

Juliana Hatfield: I think, (singing) Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. That’s all I remember. When I was a kid I used to get an allowance, which was like 25 to 50 cents and I used to go down to the store and get the new Archie comics. But anyway, I remember the Spider-Man song.

The Hulk

Matthew Caws: A loner. I think New York. I always thought it was always moody in a way, but not like a difficult way, but moody in a way that I can identify with. He seems conflicted and it’s almost like a guy you know compared to other super heroes. He seems like the guy who would be your weird cool friend.

Marvel.com: Juliana, you make art. What’s your process behind that?

Juliana Hatfield: Well, it’s funny because when I think of my memories of what the Hulk looks like, it’s kind of related to what I’ve been painting. I like to do really repetitive shapes. I even have some that are rectangles. Just tons and tons of rectangles or like little spheres that go in a circular pattern. I do them in different colors and then I outline each one and I go over and over them until it’s this mass of swirling things and it’s sort of related to the Hulk’s body. Sort of.

For more from Minor Alps, you can follow them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/MinorAlps.
You can also follow them on Twitter @julianahatfield and @nadasurf.

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